Missoula’s Physical Therapists Since 1984.
Valley Physical Therapy is a locally owned and independent private practice that has been serving our local community since 1984. We are also physical therapist-owned and that means we value quality, personalized care for our patients. Our team consists of talented employees - both clinical and non-clinical - who have a strong reputation for clinical quality, effective outcomes and positive customer service.
Our mission is to provide quality, comprehensive physical therapy services through growing knowledge and skills, empowerment of clients, and promotion of health and wellness. We emphasize individual client evaluation and treatment to help clients meet their personal goals.
For Your Health...
The Role of Physical Therapy Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment
Much has changed in recent decades in the treatment of breast cancer, resulting in increased rates of survival and, in some cases, a decreased degree in the invasiveness of surgical procedures. Even so, for patients requiring rehabilitation, a physical therapist can provide the assessment and treatment necessary to restore function and to help patients become full participants in their lives once again.
Common problems that can develop following surgery, lymph node dissection, radiation, chemotherapy, and reconstruction include pain and limitation of the chest, shoulder, and back muscles resulting in movement limitations and imbalances. In some cases additional side effects may include fatigue, nerve pain and just feeling overwhelmed.
A pre-surgical screen by a physical therapist is important. This is the most ideal time baseline measurements of the arms for later recognition and prevention of lymphedema. Lymphedema present as swelling in the arm because of blocked lymph passages and inability to drain fluids from surrounding tissues. This is most often a complication following removal and/or radiation of lymph nodes. During the pre-surgical screen your physical therapist will also provide patient education regarding appropriate early motion, postural education and how to protect healing tissues. For example, it is generally recommended to avoid overhead reaching and proceed with a slow return to motion in the initial weeks post-surgery to avoid stressing healing tissues.
After surgery or reconstruction you may notice difficulty raising your arm overhead or have taut cords of tissue in your armpit (axillary webbing). A physical therapist can help by instructing you in exercises and other techniques to correct imbalances that have developed during your cancer treatments and gradually restore strength and range of motion. Specific imbalances that can occur after surgery or reconstruction include altered timing of shoulder blade movement, reduced glide of shoulder joint, shortened soft tissues, and weakness. It is very common to see postural changes in patients who have had breast cancer or reconstruction but with education and skilled guidance you can prevent long –term dysfunction.
Continued screening and vigilance for identifying lymphedema is crucial. Your physical therapist can develop a program for prevention and treatment of lymphedema including education and precautions, compression, manual lymph drainage, and appropriate exercise. Lymphedema can occur in the early phases following breast cancer or up to 20 years later although this is less common.
Your rehabilitation should begin with approval by your physician who will determine the appropriate treatment for your individual needs. Physical therapy can play an important role in restoring function and preventing impairments so that you can reach your personal goals.
Kathryn Dolese, MSPT
Valley Physical Therapy